Jesse Jarnow

baseball & the origins of jazz

The first two recorded uses of the word “jazz” were in reference to baseball, via Elijah Wald’s excellent How The Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music:

The Los Angeles Times of April 12, 1912, quoted a pitcher for the Portland Beavers as calling his special curve “the Jazz ball” because “it wobbles and you simply can’t do anything with it.” The next sighting was similarly in a baseball context, in a column about the San Francisco Seals, who returned from their Boyes Springs training camp in 1983 “full of the old ‘jazz’.” This time the reporter appended a definition: “What is the ‘jazz’? Why, it’s a little of that ‘old life,’ the ‘gin-i-ker,’ the ‘pep,’ otherwise known as the enthusiasalum. A grain of ‘jazz’ and you feel like going out and eating your way through Twin Peaks.”

Mmm, Twin Peaks.


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